Benefits of Soaking Seeds and Nuts (Plus: Sunflower Seed Tzatziki)

Nuts and seeds are a terrific nutrient-dense snack or addition to a meal, but they also contain substances that interfere with the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. Raw nuts (and especially raw seeds), contain moderate levels of phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors. In the body, these substances can stop nutrients from being absorbed in the digestive system and reduce the digestibility of these foods. In other words, just because nuts and seeds are considered good sources of protein and nutrients, doesn’t mean your body can absorb these nutrients.  In addition, our modern diets high in processed grains and low in nutrient dense fats and minerals may increase the likelihood of nutrient absorption problems and make it even more important to reduce phytic acid levels in food.

Some phytic acid is naturally neutralized during the digestive process, but foods that are especially high in phytic acid benefit from the process of soaking (and sometimes sprouting) and dehydrating to further reduce the anti-nutrient content.

Soaking in a simple mineral solution (like salt) and low-temperature dehydrating helps to break down much of the phytic acid and make the nutrients in nuts more available to the body.

While many traditional cultures naturally soaked or sprouted seeds, this step is hardly ever taken with large scale production since it is time consuming. It is, however, simple and inexpensive to do at home and can greatly increase the nutrient content of the seeds and nuts you consume.

What You Need:

  • 2 cups of raw, organic nuts or seeds (it is better to soak one kind at a time)
  • 3-4 cups of warm filtered water (to cover nuts)
  • 1 tablespoon of salt

What to Do:

  1. Place the warm water in a medium bowl or jar (half gallon or larger). Add the salt and let dissolve.
  2. Add the nuts or seeds, making sure they are completely submerged in the water.
  3. Leave uncovered on the counter or other warm place (not the refrigerator) for at least 7 hours, preferably overnight.
  4. Rinse in a colander and spread on a baking sheet or dehydrator sheet. Bake in the oven at the lowest temperature (150 F is optimal) or dehydrate until completely dry. This step is important, as any remaining moisture in the nuts or seeds can cause them to mold. Dehydrating time can often be up to 24 hours, so a dehydrator simplifies the process but isn’t necessary.

Soak your sunflower seeds and then try this delicious recipe!

IMG_5768Sunflower Seed Tzatziki

1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste
2 heaping tablespoons fresh dill
1/4 to 1/3 cup diced cucumber

Combine the sunflower seeds, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper in a high speed blender and puree until smooth. You can soak sunflower in the seeds in water for 4 hours before blending to make a creamier texture. If you did not soak the seeds, you may need to add 1-2 tablespoons of water after checking texture. Slice a cucumber in half and scrape out the seeds using a spoon. Press the inside of cucumber with a paper towel to absorb extra moisture.

Slice the cucumber halves into 1/4 inch cubes. Place the cucumber in a paper towel and squeeze to remove any remaining liquid.

Add the diced cucumber, and fresh dill, to the sunflower seed sauce and fold in until combined. Store in an airtight container and best if consumed within 3 days.

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